College football's bowls are the most intriguing games of the year. These games put teams against one another in matchups that normally you would never see.
The best games will not be the BCS game. Not at all. I would much rather watch these five games below than Alabama blow out Utah, or Florida massacre Oklahoma as they choke again.
May the wait be over—here are the top five non-BCS bowl games of the 2008-09 season.
5. Gator Bowl
Clemson vs. Nebraska
Jan. 1, 2009, 1 p.m.
Clemson has been great since recently named head coach Dabo Swinney took over on the sidelines. With just two losses under Swinney, the Tigers feel like they are back to where they belong and should have been the whole time. C.J. Spiller and James Davis, formerly known as "Thunder and Lightning," have scored 11 touchdowns each this season.
Quarterback Cullen Harper threw for 11 scores himself this season but was also picked off 12 times. Clemson's defense had 25 total takeaways on the year and 74 tackles for loss, including 14 sacks.
Nebraska's defense has only 15 takeaways on the year, but 10 have been interceptions. The Huskers have recorded 30 sacks on the year, led by Zach Potter and Ndamukong Suh, both of whom have 5.5 sacks on the year.
Joe Ganz leads the offense with 23 touchdowns through the air and just 10 picks. Bo Pelini, in his first year, has the Huskers back in a bowl game. With his resume, I expect Nebraska to start challenging for the Big XII North again very soon.
Prediction: Clemson 24, Nebraska 21
4. Cotton Bowl
Ole Miss vs. Texas Tech
Jan. 2, 2009, 2 p.m.
Ole Miss is the only team this season to take down the mighty Florida Gators, one of the two teams in the BCS Championship game. Houston Nutt, in his first year as the Rebels' coach, has taken a plethora of talent left behind by Ed Orgeron and made Ole Miss a force again in the SEC West.
With a very good quarterback in Jevan Snead, a Texas transfer, Nutt is throwing the ball around a lot more than he is used to throwing it. The Rebels are relying on a very good rush defense to keep them in every contest.
Giving up just 83 yards a game on the ground, Ole Miss will have its work cut out against the Red Raiders. Snead averages 205 yards a game through the air, nothing like his counterpart, Graham Harrell, but Snead manages the game and makes good decisions.
The Rebels have tallied 14 picks on the year and 26 pass breakups. Those will come in very handy against Tech. Kendrick Lewis' four picks and six breakups will be put to the test against Harrell and Michael Crabtree.
The Red Raiders have dissected defenses all season long. Harrell and Crabtree both have had extraordinary seasons on the field, but Texas Tech has yet to play against a defense that has the line of Ole Miss. Tebow threw for over 300 yards against the Rebels, but the Gators lost three fumbles, and they took full advantage of those turnovers.
Texas Tech has to protect the football and not give up a ton of yards on the ground to win. Tech has only given up 16 touchdowns through the air on the year, but they surrender 138 yards on the ground. Expect the Rebels to run the ball consistently, while Tech puts up big numbers in the air.
Prediction: Texas Tech 38, Ole Miss 31
3. Pacific Life Holiday Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon
Dec. 30, 2008, 8 p.m.
Oklahoma State was the fourth-best team in the Big XII South. In just about any other conference, this team would have been first or second without a doubt. The Cowboys are not flashy on offense like the Sooners, Longhorns, or Red Raiders, but the Pokes get the job done.
Quarterback Zac Johnson threw for 24 total touchdowns, and 18 of those scores were to wideout Dez Bryant. Bryant has been the catalyst for this offense all season. With over 1,300 yards receiving, Bryant is no doubt the go-to guy for Robinson.
As much as Bryant contributes offensively, the Cowboys have gotten most of their scoring done on the ground. Oklahoma State has scored 35 touchdowns on the ground this season, led by sophomore sensation Kendall Hunter. Hunter has rushed for over 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Oregon's claim to fame this season has been keeping their archrivals out of the Rose Bowl. No one is sure whether that is good or bad for Oregon State, but Oregon may have saved the Beavers a lot of embarrassment in the granddaddy of them all. Jeremiah Johnson and Jeremiah Masoli have been the playmakers for the Ducks in a quietly good season.
9-3 in Eugene is usually a pretty good year. The Ducks are ranked number 15 in the country and playing great football after dismantling Oregon State 65-38.
Masoli is just 14 yards shy of a 1,500-yard passing season, and Johnson has rushed for over 1,000 yards as well. Oregon is averaging 41 points a game, while Oklahoma State is giving up 26.9. Oklahoma State also averages 41 points a game, while Oregon gives up 28 per contest. This game is shaping up to be a traditional Holiday Bowl classic.
Prediction: Oklahoma State 45, Oregon 38
2. GMAC Bowl
Ball State vs. Tulsa
Jan. 6, 2008, 8 p.m.
Oh, what could have been. Ball State and Boise State for an unbeaten season. College football's biggest non-BCS name against an up and coming MAC power. Unfortunately, due to Ball State's loss to Buffalo in the MAC championship game, the college football world will not get to see that.
Instead, Mobile, Alabama will provide a great matchup between two of the nation's most underrated quarterbacks in a spectacular quarterback-laden season.
Ball State's Nate Davis had an unimaginable regular season. His 26 touchdowns to just seven interceptions and over 3,000 passing yards was second in the league behind Western Michigan's Tim Hiller.
It's not all about Davis for the Cardinals this season, though. MiQuale Lewis has rushed for 1,701 yards and 22 touchdowns on the year. Maybe the most important stat for the Cardinals is that Davis doesn't have a real go-to guy. Six receivers have caught touchdown passes this season.
The Cards defense only gives up 18 points a game, while scoring 36 points.
Tulsa is one of the few teams in college football that has a nickname that does not end in the letter "s." For the Golden Hurricane, the only letter they want to end with is "W."
Tulsa quarterback David Johnson is just 144 yards shy of 4,000 passing yards on the year. Johnson has tossed 43 scores just this season. His last outing was about as good as Davis'. Both quarterbacks cost their teams conference championships by committing numerous turnovers. With five interceptions in the title game, Johnson could not stop East Carolina from heading to the Liberty Bowl.
The 47 points per game scored by Tulsa is easily better than the Cardinals' output, but the Hurricane gives up 29 points a contest.
Prediction: Ball State 44, Tulsa 40
1. San Diego Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Boise State vs. Texas Christian
Dec. 23, 2008, 8 p.m.
The numbers are not there. The flash is not there. However, even in times of players being virtually unknown and some forgotten, Boise State is still undefeated. While this game is not the national championship game, it could be considered that in some fashion.
While Utah defeated TCU, 13-10, and is headed to the BCS, this game is sort of like a non-BCS national championship game. Boise State was wrongfully denied a spot in the Fiesta Bowl in lieu of two-loss Ohio State, but the Broncos aren't complaining. Champions don't complain.
Boise State running back Ian Johnson has been in Heisman trophy talks before. Head coach Chris Petersen has been rumored in every open head coaching position in the country.
These Broncos just keep coming at you. For the third time in five years, Boise State is undefeated. Impressive feat, considering all the factors. With an inexperienced offensive line and a very young quarterback, who could have thought that Boise State would be back atop the WAC in undefeated fashion?
Give the credit to the defense. Where the Broncos have lacked the last few seasons on the defensive side, they had their coming-out party. Following the Fresno State contest, the Broncos were in the top 15 in four major defensive categories.
Johnson has still led the Broncos rushing attack, scoring 12 touchdowns on the season, but has split time with Jeremy Avery, who has rushed for over 600 yards and four scores this season.
Defense is the name of the game for Gary Patterson and his TCU Horned Frogs. TCU held No. 2 Oklahoma to its lowest total points output of the season, matching the performance of Texas against the Sooners at 35 points.
The Horned Frogs are led by Mountain West Conference player of the year, DE Jerry Hughes. Along with Hughes are three first team All-MWC performers. The defense has given up just 11 points a game this season.
Andrew Dalton leads the Frogs' offensive attack that averages 35 points a game, good enough for 20th nationally. Dalton has thrown for 11 scores and rushed for eight more. TCU doesn't need much offense with a defense like they have.
Prediction: Boise State 24, TCU 21
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